Stanhope Elmore will send two of its best to the AHSAA North-South All-Star Football Game at Cramton Bowl on Friday.
The Mustangs, who started 1-5 before rallying for four straight wins and a playoff berth, have had many All-Stars in recent years. This year’s pair, however, will come to the field on a mission.
Offensive lineman Ezra Lane and athlete Willie Ezell are not on the radar for major schools. Friday night, the duo look to make those schools rethink their plans.
“Having two All-Stars speaks volumes for our program,” Mustangs head coach Jeff Foshee said. “If you just watch Willie and E.J. play, you can see that they’re two of the best athletes in the state.”
Ezell, who played in multiple positions throughout his career, said this opportunity was unexpected.
“I was actually in class when I was told about it,” Ezell said. “I talked about it with Ezra and Coach Foshee and we both said this will give us a chance to get a few more looks.”
Ezell has already enrolled to Mississippi Delta Community College in Moorhead, Mississippi. Foshee said after seeing Ezell play a few games, some big college programs will come his way.
“He’s laid back, but he’s got great leadership qualities,” Foshee said. “He never got down even after our slow start. He was part of all three phases of our team this year and was a major reason why for our turnaround.”
Ezell played running back, wide receiver, safety and returned punts and kicks last season. His versatility was most important during the Mustangs’ playoff push.
Ezell’s 45-yard interception return touchdown sealed a 21-10 win over Wetumpka, giving Coach Foshee his 100th career win. Then, in the region finale with Park Crossing, he finished with 166 return yards, a 25-yard touchdown run, four tackles and two pass breakups.
“Coach always said that it’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish,” Ezell said. “Coach asked me to play in different spots, and I wanted us to start winning. The support we got from the fans and the community just helped us come together.”
Lane is a healthy 6-foot-3, 300-pound guard that helped open many holes for Mustang rushers. He said after the 1-5 start, he and his teammates just got tired of losing.
“It just came from our inner drive,” Lane said. “People started looking down on us and wondering what was wrong. We never stopped believing in our coaches and ourselves.”
Lane wanted to commit to Louisville, but his grades kept him from being a Division I qualifier. This fall, he’ll be attending Fork Union Military School in Virginia, a school that has produced over a dozen NFL draft picks and two Heisman Trophy winners.
“It’s almost like starting the recruiting process all over again,” Lane said. “Louisville was really the only school that was interested in me at the time. You really want to go somewhere that they actually care.”
Lane is described as big and physical by his head coach, who said Lane was one of the most dominant linemen he’s coached.
“He’s a beast and very hard-nosed,” Foshee said. “He’s a hard worker. He can definitely play on any line at the next level and he’ll have the motivation to do so.”
Both players have said that Friday’s All-Star game is a proving ground with a chance to play with and against the best players in Alabama.
“The main thing is getting more exposure,” Lane said. “I want to play football again and it should be fun. I’ll be away from home competing with guys I’ve never seen before and will probably never see again. This is definitely a great opportunity.”